Peter Delano was a teenage prodigy when he made a brief splash in the mid-1990s with two albums on Verve and PolyGram. Then he disappeared. What was to have been his third album was recorded in 1996 but never released until now. For Dewey is so good that it will create widespread curiosity about what became of Delano. One of the reasons for his absence was a back injury.
The liner notes state that he is recovering his health and is playing again. It is excellent news, because For Dewey (recorded when Delano was 20) presents an exceptional piano player, not only in terms of technical facility but in the maturity with which those chops are made to serve large creative concepts.
Standards are the quickest way to learn what a player is about. Delano has so many ideas about “For All We Know,” “Everytime We Say Goodbye,” and “If I Should Lose You” that they can’t stay ballads. As he accelerates them, his liberated, intricate elaborations always tie. At 20, Delano’s most distinctive trait is the dynamic tension between his impressionistic right hand, with its arcs of lyricism and its endlessly unwinding runs, and his jabbing, jagged left-hand chords.
There are also five intelligent Delano originals, on three of which Dewey Redman joins Delano’s trio with bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Anders Hentze. The tracks with Redman (who died in 2006) are vivid reminders that his leathery tenor saxophone sound, his fearless imagination and his emotional authenticity are all irreplaceable.